Saturday, July 18, 2015

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part XXIX: 300-276

As I sat down to edit this entry I noticed a couple of goofs as the 300s wound down. I hope they've been fixed and I apologize for any redundancy you might see in this (or other recent) entry.

Something that's been on my mind a lot lately has to do with whether or not I'm coming up with all of the right things in this project. That is, I've touched on particular subjects and offshoots of them on countless occasions and, in doing so, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'm now leaving out something crucial.

I feel certain that, at the conclusion of this project, many things will spring to mind that I would like to have included, but the book will have been closed. I know it doesn't matter, that the list of gratitudes should be a lifelong accumulation, but I don't want to come across as arrogant. We have a lot to be thankful for in this part of the world -- some of us more so than others -- and I'm trying to grow my mindfulness of that truth.

My wife also asked me where I was with it and whether or not it had changed me.

I guess I wish she would have known the answer to both of those questions, but maybe that just means I've overlooked a particular gratitude. Or several. Or maybe it's one I haven't even realized yet.

Anyway, thanks -- as always -- for reading.


Three Hundred: faith

            I sat solo through nine o’clock Mass a few Sundays ago, and Father Steve’s homily about race in our community and in our country reverberated off of the parish walls. I don’t know how to measure my faith, and I don’t think great importance lies in doing so, but getting in touch with having it feels necessary. We read and we hear all kinds of definitions and ideas for what faith looks like, for how we should understand it. I think, for now, faith has everything to do with doing what’s right, giving when you can give, and thinking about others. I’m happy to have that glimmer of personal clarity in a world that so often feels obscured by darkness.

Two Hundred Ninety-Nine: the feeling when I get out of bed (and stay out of bed) the first time my alarm sounds

            Feels good to have power over “snooze.”

Two Hundred Ninety-Eight: the feeling of going to bed at the same time every night, staying asleep for the whole night, and waking up rested at the same time every morning

            Just kidding. That so doesn’t happen. I do have a vision for it happening, though. And I know that whe-- Whoops. Sorry. That’s someone else’s life.

Two Hundred Ninety-Seven: another kid weekend

            My wife returned home from her girls-trip lake stay a few Sundays ago, and I had mixed feelings about how the weekend went. Don’t recall much about Friday night so I must not’ve scheduled any future therapy sessions for my children there, but, oh, Saturday -- you lengthy, lengthy bastard.

            We woke early and hit the gym after breakfast. They had a bit of free play/movie time back at the house while I wrote, and around lunch I allowed myself to get short with the boy. At the time he was dismounting one of those tweener waves where one day he still needed two naps and the next day one sufficed. I didn’t give him a morning nap on Saturday and right around the time his hunger and fatigue probably peaked, I allowed my frustration with some other thing I don’t even remember to get the best of me.

            Elihu will turn two in October, which, in and of itself, is insane, but until then he remains one. I don’t quite know what it is, but he has always seemed so much older than he is. Or maybe I treat him different because I think I know how boys should feel and operate. Or maybe it’s like everyone says: Boys and girls are just different. I’m sure it’s all of these things and more, but when Elihu doesn’t get his way, he will say, “No,” and then when he sees that it’s for real, he cocks his head back (Note: I’ve been looking for 40 years, bud. The ceiling’s got no answers for us.), conjures up the saddest sad face he can, and caps it off with a running-in-place mini tantrum.

            I see this and it pisses me off. I hate that he acts like, um, a baby in those moments. I’ll do or say something jerky, which -- surprise -- really upsets him, and it tends to be right about that time that I realize my error.

            This had to do with picking up books, though. He wanted to already be eating his way into a naptime coma, and I wanted the books picked up first. He resisted. I pressed. One of us sat there crying while the other picked up the books.

            We ate, though, and after naps the kids did some crafts and played tag, followed by a game of what Adeline calls “Family.” In essence this means that she puts on high heels, strolls around the house giving orders and solving problems. I decided we’d go out for dinner, and upon our return we went out back so the kids could play while I mowed. Once I had a square cut out, I set up the water table and they went nuts at it. With the back complete, we moved everything around front, and early on I had a few strips of the side yard to hit, which would leave them out of my line of sight for about 30 seconds every other minute.

            They remained in place at the table until Adeline saw the neighbor boys come home, and I hollered over the engine’s roar for her to stay at the table which I’d positioned by the front porch. She shot me some sinister look from the driveway, and when I saw that she’d chosen to stage a refusal I shut the mower off, causing her to rush back up the sidewalk to her brother and their toy. I twice interrupted her attempts at justification and went back to my task, thinking of the day that will come when I’ll have to explain to her that the world has evil -- and people who do bad things to others -- in it.

            With the mower put up, I ran the blower, and while I knocked out the sidewalk she retrieved some chalk from the back of a tricycle and piled it on the driveway. When I discovered this I hollered at her over the electric motor.

            “Get this chalk out of my way,” I said.

            As I coiled the extension cord and put the last of my things back in the garage she approached me from the driveway.

            “What happened to you being nice?” My four-year-old daughter looked at me, seriousness in her voice and on her face.

            “That’s a good question,” I said, feeling the guilt of my pre-lunch snap at the boy wash over me again. “I’m sorry I snapped. I’m hot and tired and sweaty, but I should’ve used a nicer tone.”

            “That’s okay,” she said. “I’ll forgive you always.”

            With both sets of feet hosed off and dried, everyone bathed and jammied, we brushed teeth and read prayers. I gave each of them their token rocks and goodnight kisses and asked -- in a silent-and-hasty fashion -- for the gift of patience.

            My children have a sweetness about them and they don’t deserve the wrath of my short temper.

            I’m grateful that -- for now -- their youth makes them recognize that I help them meet enough of their needs to overlook it.

Two Hundred Ninety-Six: my boss has a lot of vacation time

            Around two years ago I sent my boss an e-mail message telling him I thought he should hire me. I’ve had (what I’d call typical) learning-curve growth with a few errors and some successes, and we’ve worked hard to get to the spot we’re in now, which I’d call a decent relationship.

            I think at some point I thought I didn’t need him, that I had this thing figured out, which I’ll stamp as false today.

            I do need him. He teaches me things and approves stuff and sometimes he’s nice.

            He has a lot of vacation time, though, and when he’s gone I can do my thing and send my approval-needed items to the person that’s covering him, and for the most part those things get funneled through with no resistance.

            As his vacation week winds down I tend to wind up looking forward to his return, but while he’s gone -- at least for a minute -- it’s nice to do my thing with the confidence that he will have approved of my work once he’s back.

Two Hundred Ninety-Five: stuff and things, things and stuff

            One day my wife and I will make arrangements to have the kids away for the weekend and we’ll tackle our garage and basement. We’ll eliminate the things we no longer need and organize the stuff we do. 
And it will be nice -- a huge weight lift -- when we’re done.

Two Hundred Ninety-Four: a little box of Scout stuff

            While tearing through a trunk of my belongings looking for a picture I came across a small box containing almost all of the most important pieces of my Boy Scout memorabilia.



            I’m glad I saved them and plan to one day wear many of them with my son.

Two Hundred Ninety-Three: Office Space

            From “PC Load Letter” to “a case of the Mondays” to “Yeeeeeeeeaaaahhh” to Milton’s stapler mumblings to “doin’ the drywall up there at the new McDonald’s” and so much more, I gotta give thanks to the people that made this movie happen. Good stuff.

Two Hundred Ninety-Two: Mystery, Alaska

            An all-time favorite.

Two Hundred Ninety-One: buying a firepit

            We made a crabby, whole-family visit to Lowe’s a number of weeks ago and got a firepit. I haven’t put it together yet, but I envision us being able to hang out under the massive leaning evergreen in our back yard.

            I hope we can make s’mores in it before said evergreen falls and destroys our home.

Two Hundred Ninety: using all of the piles of sticks around our property that I used to find obnoxious

            Assuming I get that firepit put together and assuming that we use it before the evergreen destroys our home and our neighbors along with it, it will be nice to utilize all of the limbs and kindling that have probably become quaint little homes for various animals in our front, side, and back yards.

Two Hundred Eighty-Nine: Page McConnell

            Phish’s keyboardist and chairman of the boards, held the favorite-band-member slot for me for many years. I can’t say for certain if he still does, but Trey Anastasio has made a huge pressing for usurping “Leo.”

            It doesn’t matter in the end; I’ll always love McConnell.

            He brings such talent, wit, energy, and charisma to the band that those attributes almost match his ability to produce audio soul.

            I love his baby grand, his voice, his clav’, and his countless other toys, but his keyboard work stole my heart in the early 1990s, and that’s where I put my Phish root down.

            Even though I wouldn’t know it for almost 10 years, I’m grateful that, in 1985, McConnell joined the outfit as an official member, and has remained one since.

Two Hundred Eighty-Eight: Jeff Holdsworth

            Thanks for going to look for God, dude. Phish just wouldn’t be the same without you not in it.

Two Hundred Eighty-Seven: the Murphy’s Grand Lake home in Grove, Oklahoma

            That 12 months have passed since our friends invited us to spend the fourth of July with them blows my mind yet -- at the time of writing this -- here I sat again on their spacious deck, relaxing, feeling grateful.



           While I could’ve carve five separate gratitudes out of this entry, it feels right to compile them into one. While I’ve lived 34 of my years in a state that borders Oklahoma, I’ve spent little time inside the Sooner State.

            This leaves me with an element of mystery about the state, an appealing feeling about what’s gone on in this sauce-pot-shaped piece of land both prior to being given the boundary lines, and since. I dig the place. It’s got the coolness of desolate Kansas with the added awesomeness of Native American presence, culture, and vibe. I can’t say much about Grove itself, save that it’s the town in which the Murphy’s joint sits. Can’t say a lot about the lake either, save for the soothing element of being near water.

            I’m thankful to be friends with the Murphys. I’m thankful for the organic circumstances under which the women became friends, and gave birth to children of similar ages.



           I’m thankful that the man of the house turned out to be a cool -- albeit a Denver Broncos fan -- dude, and I’m thankful that they appear to like us enough to invite us to spend the fourth with them at their lake home.

Two Hundred Eighty-Six: entry into the world of iPhone

            Circa the week of July fourth my phone hit (as close as I can remember to) the two-year mark, and -- no coincidence to me -- had struggled to execute flawless basic functioning for several months, just like my previous device did when it reached that age. My wife -- as she does for so many things -- did the legwork for this particular task, which meant digging in to a dilemma we both felt: content with the overall experience of being Android owners and operators, but use our devices for work to an extent that does not allow for product failure. At the same time, an element of making the switch to iPhone felt nothing short of putting on sheep outfits and joining the herd.

            The explanation we got looked something like this: The software that goes into Android devices registers as nothing shy of exceptional, but remains a better fit for computers; it falters -- in the long run -- in its handset state. The other piece had to do with the claim that Android uses a lower quality of parts inside its units, a second contribution to the lack of longevity.

            Having obtained the information, I wavered, non-committal to the necessary decision. In the end I took the chance and my wife got me an iPhone. At writing time I was not yet 72 hours into it and already loving it. The true consensus won’t be made until around the summer of 2017, but so far I’m a fan. I guess being a sheep doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

Two Hundred Eighty-Five: that Vince Vaughn xbox scene in The Breakup

            I can’t offer precise quotes for the scene in which Vaughn’s character plays online and trash talks the kid opponent on the other end of the Internet connection, but I love that scene.

Two Hundred Eighty-Four: YouTube user “evenstev”

            I streamed night one of the Santa Clara Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead shows and I enjoyed it, but the second set didn’t pick up where the first set left off, and I ended up thinking of the experience as a) something I enjoyed spending with a friend, and b) fun because of novelty. The next morning (and ensuing days) it appeared that the second night resembled the proverbial bees knees. I imagine it to be available in sundry cyber locales, but I came across this user’s account first, and I’m thankful he did what he did here.

Two Hundred Eighty-Three: Anastasio’s solo on that first-set, second-night “Hell in a Bucket”

            Never loved the In the Dark album, and I never understood the appeal of “Hell in a Bucket” but the septet knocked this one out of the park in Santa Clara, and Anastasio killed it. So grateful.

Two Hundred Eighty-Two: The Phil Zone

            I don’t remember the first time I wandered down Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas, but I remember the first time I found myself at the crossroads of 14th and Mass. I didn’t know (then) why the shop bore the name it did, and I couldn’t imagine being able to afford shopping there, but one certainty rang true that first time I entered the store (and every subsequent occasion): this was my kind of joint.

            I couldn’t quite put a finger on it yet, but something about Birkenstocks, tapestries, smoking goods, and Volkswagen buses told me -- to borrow a Talking Heads song title -- this must be the place. Hard to believe the Zone has now been closed a shade longer than its 12-year run in business, but Lawrence in the 1990s had a magic about it, and The Phil Zone contributed to it. Grateful for its existence, its vibe, and the epiphany it gave me.

Two Hundred Eighty-One: breezes

            Nothing like some comforting wind to cool your brow, give your body some respite on a warm afternoon. Amazing place this planet.

Two Hundred Eighty: working on a portion of this outside

            To date, about 97 percent of this series found its keystrokes clicking from within the man cave. I generated almost all of the rest from our dining-room table. Writing outdoors brings a welcome change of environment. Grateful for the opportunity.

Two Hundred Seventy-Nine: den-den daiko

            Whether they’ll always make me think of The Karate Kid II or not, I love these little Japanese pellet drums. I appreciate thinking about the thought process that led to such a creation.



            Beautiful human experience.

Two Hundred Seventy-Eight: Lake Powell

            Lake Powell might be the most beautiful body of water I’ve ever seen. I can’t describe why; perhaps the surroundings in which it exists, or maybe because of the silent stories it seems to tell. I love that lake, though, and look forward to taking my children there.

Two Hundred Seventy-Seven: eastern Utah

            Hard, unfair, and not necessary to compare it with the mountains, the ocean, or the forest, but I call eastern Utah a gorgeous, stunning, mind-blowing portion of this land that I anticipate exploring a second time later in life. Don’t think a sight has ever left me as speechless.


Two Hundred Seventy-Six: watching infants learn